Earlier this week, we talked about setting goals and making writing resolutions that stick. What we didn’t discuss was how to turn those resolutions into reality once you’ve made them. That’s the topic today.
When it comes to actually reaching our goals, we have to remember one thing: no matter how far we have to go or how huge the climb will be, we’ll only make it if we take things one step at a time. But sometimes it’s hard to know if the step we’re taking is actually getting us to our goal or if it’s taking us… nowhere. That’s where the technique in this post comes in. I learned this method reading Wishcraft by Barbara Sher and have adapted it to fit my own style. The technique is simple: just follow these three easy steps.
Step 1: Start at your goal and work your way backwards.
When you start at the beginning, it can be difficult to figure out what next step to take to get you to your goal. If you start at the goal, on the other hand, you may not know what the first step would be, but you can certainly infer what the next-to-last step is.
Example: If your goal is to find an agent for your book, your last step would be signing with the agent, right? By that logic, it stands to reason that right before you sign with the agent, you would have to submit a full draft of your book to said agent so he or she can decide whether to sign you. Before that, you probably would have to send a query with a partial set of pages. Before that, you’d have to research which agents to query and keep track of what you sent to each one. And so it goes. Continue working backwards until you get to the point where you are right now. Voila! By working backwards, you suddenly have all the major steps leading up to your goal laid out for you.
Step 2: Plot the major landmarks between where you are now and your goal.
Essentially you just did that in step one, but I like to take this second step to plot out those major landmarks on my journey in the forward-order, rather than backwards (like in Step 1). Think of this step as plotting out a road trip, where you figure out all the cities and landmarks you want to hit between your starting point and your destination. You’re not worried yet about the minutia of each individual leg of the journey; you’re just figuring out the main trajectory.
Step 3: Reduce each section between landmarks to the smallest possible piece.
This is when you look at the individual legs of the trip and figure out the details. Where will you stay for the night? Where will you stop for gas? How many miles will you drive per day? It’s the same with writing.
If your goal is to finish your novel in 100 days and you think you need about 100K words, just break it down to small, manageable chunks, like 1k words per day (that’s 4-5 pages double spaced… totally doable). If your goal is to research 30 agents by the end of the month, research one agent per day and you’re set. The idea here is to break down those larger steps into smaller ones so that each step is more manageable.
In the end, if you take each step toward your goal one at a time you’re much more likely to reach your goal. Why? Because big goals are scary and intimidating but baby steps are just that: baby steps. And babies are cute and cuddly, so baby steps can’t be all that scary, right?
When life gets overwhelming, it’s important to focus on just one thing in the moment. Sure, multitasking might seem more efficient because it feels like you’re getting things done, but if tackling multiple things at once makes you buckle under the pressure, then you’re not really being all that efficient now, are you? Better to choose just one small thing, do it and check it off your list. Then, if you have time, you can do the next small thing… and the next. Before you know it, you’ll be miles closer to your goal.